New Canaan Teen Could Face Six Months If Convicted in Jogger Death

A 16 year old female New Canaan driver was placed under arrest, last week, after police said that she was distracted by the use of a handheld cell phone which resulted in her hitting and fatally injuring a 44-year-old jogger.

The death of Kenneth Dorsey of Norwalk and the subsequent criminal charges against the 16-year-old distracted teen driver come as other states are considering measures to force both teenagers and adults to discontinue using cell phones and other electronic devices when operating a motor vehicle.

Mr. Dorsey, an experienced runner, was training for a marathon and out on a morning jog when he was fatally struck by a distracted teen driver who was operating an SUV. The New Canaan teenage girl, whose identity is being withheld by the police because of her age, was charged with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, using a handheld telephone under age 18 while driving and failure to drive in the proper lane.

This tragic accident is prompting renewed calls to remind people to discontinue distracted teen driving habits while operating their vehicles.

"We tried to convey just how this incident illustrates how dangerous it is to be distracted while driving a 3,500-pound vehicle 35 to 40 mph," Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling said. "You need to focus all your attention on what you're doing. It only takes a second to swerve a few feet. Everybody should look at this and learn from it."

Connecticut, one of the national leaders in driver safety advocacy, is one of 31 states as well as Washington, D.C., that ban all cellphone use by new drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Additionally, 38 states prohibit texting while driving, with Ohio about to become the 39th state after a proposed ban that Gov. John Kasich has promised to sign this coming Tuesday. Under Ohio's new law, texting while driving would allow police to pull over a teen for texting while driving.

In 2009, almost 5,500 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving distracted driving and almost half a million people were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It has been reported that 16% of all accidents resulting in fatalities in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. Not surprisingly, teen drivers were more likely than those in other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distracted driving was an issue.

The accused distracted teen driver accused of killing Kenneth Dorsey could be sentenced up to six months in jail on the negligent homicide charge if convicted. The lesser charge of using a cell phone under age 18 while driving carries a 30-day license suspension and $175 in license restoration and court fees for a first offense, according to the state DMV.

Education is a large part of accident prevention. As a result of this accident, the New Canaan Police Department is offering a program on June 6 at 7p.m. in the high school to help further educate the public. The fatal accident involving the local girl was part of the impetus for the session, said Sgt. Carol Ogrinc, the department's youth officer. "But we've had accidents involving distracted driving in town and we felt something community-based would be helpful to offer."

Despite the existing laws and ongoing education programs little comfort is provided to Leo Dorsey of Milford, Ken Dorsey's father. Mr. Dorsey will advocate for cell phones that will not work if a motor vehicle is moving to prevent the tragedies that have taken the lives of victim's like his son.

William Seymour, a CT DMV spokesman said that some cell phone providers are studying ways to do just that, possibly by installing a chip in the phone. "I know that different companies are looking at ways to have the cell phone shut off when the engine comes on. We're attempting to
deal with this issue from the front door, the back door and the side doors,"
he said.

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